3 bodies found in Mexican region where Australian, American surfers went missing, FBI says

Three bodies have been found in a Mexican town near where three surfers — two Australians and an American — went missing last weekend, the FBI confirmed Friday evening.

In a statement to CBS News, the FBI said that three bodies were found in the town of Santa Tomas in the Mexican state of Baja California. The Baja California prosecutor’s office told CBS News that the bodies have not yet been positively identified, which will be done by the state medical examiner.

“While we cannot comment on specifics to preserve the sanctity of the investigative and legal processes, along with protecting the privacy of those impacted, we can assure you that we are assessing every tip,” the FBI’s statement read. “If credible, we will pursue those leads with rigor. We are in contact with the family of the U.S. Citizen, and we are steadfast with our international law enforcement partners in finding answers.”

Mexican authorities earlier Thursday reported that they had found tents and questioned three people in the case. The Pacific coast state of Baja California is a popular tourist destination that is also plagued by cartel violence.

Australian brothers Jake and Callum Robinson and their American friend have not been seen since April 27, officials said.

María Elena Andrade Ramírez, the state’s chief prosecutor, would not say whether the three people questioned were considered possible suspects or witnesses in the case. She said only that some were tied directly to the case, and others indirectly.

But Andrade Ramírez said evidence found along with the abandoned tents was somehow linked to the three. The three foreigners were believed to have been surfing and camping along the Baja coast near the coastal city of Ensenada, but did not show up at their planned accommodations over the weekend.

In this image made from video, Mexican security forces frisk men at a checkpoint in Ensenada, Mexico, Thursday, May 2, 2024. Mexican authorities said Thursday they have found tents and questioned a few people in the case of two Australians and an American who went missing over the weekend.

/ AP

“A working team (of investigators) is at the site where they were last seen, where tents and other evidence was found that could be linked to these three people we have under investigation,” Andrade Ramírez said. “There is a lot of important information that we can’t make public.”

“We do not know what condition they are in,” she added. While drug cartels are active in the area, she said “all lines of investigation are open at this time. We cannot rule anything out until we find them.”

On Wednesday, the missing Australians’ mother, Debra Robinson, posted on a local community Facebook page an appeal for helping in finding her sons. Robinson said her son had not been heard from since Saturday, April 27. They had booked accommodations in the nearby city of Rosarito, Baja California.

Robinson said one of her sons, Callum, is diabetic. She also mentioned that the American who was with them was named Jack Carter Rhoad, but the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City did not immediately confirm that. The U.S. State Department said it was aware of reports a U.S. citizen missing in Baja, but gave no further details.

Andrade Ramírez said her office was in contact with Australian and U.S. officials. But she suggested that the time that had passed might make it harder to find them.

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the last few days that they were reported missing. So, that meant that important hours or time was lost,” she said.

The investigation was being coordinated with the FBI and the Australian and U.S. consulates, the prosecutor’s office added.

In December, cartel leaders went on a killing rampage to hunt down corrupt police officers who stole a drug shipment in Tijuana, which is located in Baja California.

In 2015, two Australian surfers, Adam Coleman and Dean Lucas, were killed in western Sinaloa state, across the Gulf of California – also known as the Sea of Cortez- from the Baja peninsula. Authorities say they were victims of highway bandits. Three suspects were arrested in that case.

AFP contributed to this report.